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Sofia debates shale gas after protests

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SOFIA, Bulgaria, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Bulgarian lawmakers said hearings were scheduled to discuss prospects for shale natural gas development following protests against the resource.

Thousands of activists took to the streets in Sofia last weekend to protest shale gas development in the country, the Sofia News Agency reports.

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Bulgarian officials in June approved a deal with U.S. supermajor Chevron to explore shale gas potential in the country's northeast. Last year, Bulgarian Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said there is potentially enough shale gas in the country to meet domestic demand for the next millennium.

Authorities in the Bulgarian Socialist Party proposed a draft measure banning shale gas exploration in the country. Shale gas is emerging as a key natural resource in countries like the United States and Poland. Extraction methods, known as fracking, are controversial because of fear of groundwater contamination.

Lawmakers said the draft measure was on the meeting's agenda, the news agency adds. The Bulgarian energy minister said during the weekend, however, that the country could face a potential crisis unless it explored all energy options.

The Novi Pazar shale gas deposit in Bulgaria holds an estimated 1.05 trillion-35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

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